Downwind Sleigh Ride
21 June 2015 | Snug Harbor Marina - Pentwater MI
Many folks ask us if we've sailed a lot since we now live aboard. The answer is yes and no.
Yes, I've been sailing all my life starting with sunfish and butterfly in the days of my youth. When Pamela and I decided to plan this travel sabbatical we began sailing together owning and renting boats from 15' to now 46'.
No, we haven't owned our boat for a long period of time before setting off because we didn't live on a large enough body of water to justify the well known cost of big boats - BOAT = Break Out Another Thousand. We did sail a Catalina 22 that we could trailer just about anywhere and was outfitted with all of the same features of our Outbound, just in a smaller size. We made it a point to travel as often as we could on the C-22 national cruise that was usually 6-12 boats of varying vintages with like minded cruisers. We learned SO much from that group and they were SO encouraging to us. One of the brokers that was involved with the sale of our boat to us commented that the most successful attribute of long term cruisers is attitude.
To be honest the length has not been the biggest challenge as much as just getting to know the behavior of the boat you are sailing. We have rented boats when we went to warm weather destinations including a 44' sloop in the BVI for our honeymoon last year. Each time on a new boat you have to learn what works and what doesn't. Sailboats like our Outbound have been designed by their architect for a specific purpose, in our case a performance cruiser. Performance refers to the fast and twitchy race boats that require a crew of 8 or more to sail as they are dedicate for speed and not comfort. Cruiser refers to a boat that is safe and comfortable for a smaller crew, many times double handers like us. They have complex systems on-board that make life easy like refrigeration, air conditioning and expresso machines! They are not always speedy but safe.
Our boat is designed to have the best attributes of both and also enters another class of sailing boats, Blue Water capable. This feature is focused on safety in the open ocean, where we plan to travel. Our first jump will be to the Caribbean in November.
So we are on day 5 of sailing our girl every day and we've been learning how she handles. When you are moving from point A to point B you sail or motor based upon the winds. We are using a complex wind prediction application Predictwind that gives you up to 4 differing forecasts for any day you are interested in sailing. It's weather so its not always accurate but gives you the best shot at knowing what to expect.
Yesterday was forecast to be the best wind direction for our intended destination of our trip so far. When we began the day early as we had many miles to put behind us the winds were light and erratic so we cranked up the our 75HP Yanmar diesel engine and motor sailed (sails up and engine on for an extra boost) to make time. About half way to our destination the winds began to fill in from behind us, one of the more dangerous angles for wind to be as you have to guard against having your boom unexpectedly switch from one side of the boat to the other in a "crash jibe".
Just as we rounded little sable point lighthouse we were able to bear off to safer angle that still had us pointing to our intended destination. We cut the engine and tightened up the preventer to be sure our boom stayed put and had the ride of our young sailing lives on Big Frisky. We watched the wind speed start around 15 knots and build to 25 sustained with gusts near 30. Our girl took care of though, like riding on a rail as we began to over take the 1-3' waves and occasionally surfed a wave or two as we were now dead down wind and so going with the swell.
I must say it was exhilarating and scary at the same time. The loads on the gear pushing our 20 ton boat along are enormous and not for the feint or heart. You have to know how to sail your boat so you don't damage something or yourself. Our boat is overbuilt to blue water standards so was happy as could be in the 25 knot winds with our full main only. I was behind the wheel with one hand on the back stay to 'feel' if anything was amiss and eyes darting back and forth to the instruments and around us to be sure we didn't hit anything like the NOAA weather buoy or fishing nets that snuck up on us the day before until we were almost on top of them.
Looking back on our 4 year search for our girl you can read and talk to as many people as you like but until you are in 25-30 knot winds with the sails up you really can never know....well we know now our decision was the right one and I imagine in the years to come as we become better sailers of Big Frisky she will take as far and wide as our eyes can see.